It’s goal setting season, baby! I suppose wish-list season is a more accurate statement. Long lists of all of the things we are going to do in 2022 are being compiled. Some are actually being written down somewhere which is a good start but most are likely just being thought up and stored in what is probably the least reliable storage unit in existence, our dumb brains. These lists usually consist of statements like “exercise more” or “drink less” and these are both fantastic ideas, but they are just that: ideas. Unfortunately, the success rate of goals that people lay out for themselves is abysmal - not because people are incapable, but because they don’t have a plan. I am going to give you some quick tips on how to take these ideas and make them into concrete goals with rock solid strategies to set them, maintain them, and ultimately accomplish them! SETTING A GOAL The very first step in goal setting is labeling a goal in specific detail (WRITE IT DOWN). Without being specific with your goal, you have no way of knowing if you accomplished it because you don’t even know exactly what it is. If you lay out ambiguous goals like “exercise more” that leaves too many questions on the table like “how much more?”. What does “more” mean to you? In this case, there is no clear place to start and no plan of action. The goal should be stated as something like “I’m going to exercise 4 days a week after work for one year”. With this, you’ve defined what “more” is and now you can plan a course of action to make 4 days a week possible. This goes for bigger, long-term goals as well. “I want to compete in CrossFit”. This is great, but there are hundreds of CrossFit competitions throughout the year so without a specific event it is impossible to create a timeline and a plan of action that will get you to that point. It would be helpful to rephrase this to “I want to compete in the RX division in the CrossFit Open”. The more specific the goal statement the better. OBJECTIVESObjectives are the small tasks that need to be accomplished in order to achieve a goal. If I want to exercise 4 days a week I need to find a gym. Once I have found a gym I need to find a trainer or an exercise program to follow. Once I have found an exercise program to follow I need to establish how I am going to get my ass to the gym 4 days each week and which days those will be. On a larger scale, if I want to compete in the RX division of the CrossFit Open, I need to first figure out what skills I need to develop in order to make this happen and create a plan to achieve each of those. These objectives absolutely can not be skipped or ignored and require their own intention and action plan. It is also important to lay out these objectives on a realistic timeline that aligns with the overall desired goal. All of these things should be formed into a written plan that can be observed and tracked!INTENTIONAL IMPLEMENTATION AND GOAL EXECUTION Setting a goal is the easy part. Executing and maintaining habits to accomplish that goal is a whole other beast. Intentional implementation is the meat and potatoes of achieving goals. This is the when, where, and how it will be done. If you want to exercise 4 days a week you have to know when, where, and how this will happen. Set a specific time and day. “I will exercise Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday at 5:30 PM”. Set a convenient location where you will exercise these days and times. Having these things laid out takes the deliberation process out of the equation. There is no wondering when you should exercise or wondering if maybe you’ll feel like it at another time. These intentions can be phrased as “if-then” statements. IF it is 5:30 PM on a Tuesday, THEN guess what my ass is doing? Exercising! IF it is 9 P.M. on a weekday, THEN I am putting my phone down and getting ready for bed! It is crucial to set these intentions for yourself so that when you are faced with options, you know which one aligns with your goal values and you are able to make the decision that will push you toward that. An example of this would be if a coworker asks you to grab a drink after work on a Tuesday, you decline because that is the time you set to exercise. If you did not have the intentional implementation already decided then you would likely accept the invite with the thought of maybe exercising at another time - which is then far less likely to happen. Intentional implementations make striving for your goals a habitual practice and goal striving actions are far more likely to happen. Also, this will prepare you to make the appropriate choice when faced with appealing options that could detract from what you should be doing to strive for a goal. STAYING ON TRACK Anything worth achieving is going to be difficult. Understanding and accepting the fact that it will be difficult will prepare you to take on whatever challenges come up. It would be helpful to write down all the ways that it could be difficult and which points along the way will be most difficult. Oftentimes people underestimate the difficulty of a goal and when the hard shit comes up it smacks them square in the face and they don’t know how to respond and bail. Difficulty means the task itself will be uncomfortable. Workouts are physically taxing and painful. Studying is mentally exhausting. These things are difficult. Just like you want to anticipate difficult points, you also want to anticipate any obstacles that will arise, because as sure as shit, they will. Obstacles are unexpected roadblocks such as a change in work schedule, family emergencies or an injury. This is another one of those things that you will want to write down. It is important to think of potential obstacles that could come up and get in your way so you can have a plan ready in that event. There is no way to anticipate everything that might happen, but just knowing some of the potential obstacles will better prepare you to succeed and allow you to develop a concept of how much of a priority this new goal is to you before any obstacles arise. There will almost certainly be setbacks. Understanding this and being as prepared as possible will impact how big the setback is and how quickly you can get back on track.MEASURABILITY AND FEEDBACK How will you know if you’re on the right track? Keeping logs and tracking progress gives you timely feedback so you can routinely check if you are on course to achieve your goal. How will I know if I achieved my goal? This is a question that should be answered before you begin working toward your goal. The only way to know when you’ve reached your goal is if your goal has a measurable outcome. If your goal is to exercise 4 days a week for a year then you will need to exercise 208 times. If throughout the year you kept weekly logs of your workouts then you will know at the end of the year exactly how many you’ve done and if the goal was reached. If your goal was to compete in the RX division in the CrossFit open you can perform physical tests to ensure that you can perform the required movements. To wrap things up a bit, the key things to focus on when setting and striving for goals are as follows:
- Be as specific as you possibly can with your goal statement.
- Lay out objectives on a realistic timeline that align with your goal.
- Be intentional in your implementation to create habits and combat distractions.
- Prepare as much as possible for any challenges and obstacles that might come up.
- Set measurable outcomes and get routine feedback.
Goals are often confused with hopes and wishes. The main difference is that goals, when set and executed, are likely to get you what you want while hopes and wishes will get you nowhere. It's all about that action! To truly set and achieve a goal it takes a great deal of time, commitment, and effort. Take these tips and apply them to something that you want to achieve, work your ass off, and see what happens!